Friday, February 26, 2010

Beauty Redefined

Being a women and having two of my three children girls, I feel acutely aware of the way body image is presented, perceived and desperately achieved. We are constantly bombarded with the idea that if we are not very skinny, perfectly toned and have flawless skin we are somehow not beautiful, which perpetuates the belief that only surface or outer beauty is important or all there is. That who we are on the inside doesn't count as beautiful, simply because at first glance it is obvious.

I have worked very hard as a mother to not discuss the wiggly, giggly, and drooping anything. All exercise and good eating habits are done to help maintain a healthy life style. I found myself asking how do I protect my girls and help them to understand that the images we see everywhere are unhealthy and not something worthy of achieving. Beauty doesn't just happen at a specific dress size.

Recently I felt hopeful we were moving away from these stereotypes when Dove launched a "Campaign For Real Beauty". Dove decided to help girls focus on and embrace their real inner beauty. They feel this is the way to build self-esteem that will carry them through their life. Dove decided to do this by using real women in their ads. Not models perfectly made up and air brushed to perfection.

Jamie Lee Curtis decided to embrace her natural self as well. She no longer spends time or money coloring her hair, sticking to an unnatural and unhealthy diet that leaves her not feeling energized, healthy or full, but, she was Hollywood skinny.

Jessica Simpson was recently chastised when she appeared in stage looking "fat" or "fatter" then she had been. She spoke out saying that she was focusing on her talent and not how she is perceived (clip of her interview with Oprah is below).

Then this happened, an already Barbie look a like Heidi Montag (25) underwent 10 plastic surgeries at one time to have a more "Hollywood" look. The result was that she emerged curvier, flatter, firmer and looking like someone completely different then she had before. Sadly, she really resembles Barbie now more then ever. (As a side note the average women is 5'4", 150 Lbs and is a size 10. If Barbie were real she would be 6' tall, 100 lbs and a size 4. She would be so top heavy she wouldn't be able to stand up straight. What's funny is that even with all that she still can't get Ken to marry her. It would appear that beauty being only skin deep isn't enough.)

If "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" why are so many beholding an impossible standard? Why isn't natural good enough?

I would be lying if I said I never thought about doing a little of this or that to help keep a youthful look. But I ask myself why is it that beauty can only be found in youth? Why can't beauty be found in maturity, in finding your voice, in the confidence that comes with age, having perspective on life and feeling comfortable in your own skin. Are we nipping and tucking for ourselves or for social acceptance? Does it make a difference who we do it for?

As a mother do I pray that my daughters don't want to be actresses, models or anyone that lives a life in the limelight for fear of what it will do to their self concept? Then, I ask can we influence esteem in our children or do they come hard wired? Clearly I have more questions then answers. For now I will continue to have hope that these unrealistic standards for beauty can continue to change. Until then I will wait for Mattel (maker of Barbie) to come up with a new campaign of their own focusing on real beauty. Maybe something like "The New and Improved Barbie For The Average Women"

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

To Feel Guilty Or Not To Feel Guilty ...That Is The Question.

Several times over the last few weeks I have found myself involved in conversations with other mothers, or reading articles regarding guilt associated with Motherhood. What I found so interesting was that all mothers regardless of their circumstances felt guilty about their choices.

Guilt because they had to work, guilt because they chose to work, guilt because they weren't working, guilt because they felt they weren't doing enough as a mother, and guilt because they wanted to do something for themselves.

This got me thinking. Where does guilt come from? Is it a learned behavior? Is it part of our DNA as women? Is it imposed on us or self imposed? Does it just happen when we become mothers? I know that I will never know where it comes from. But I am thinking that I might be able to influence it for my children based on my behavior and choices.

It occurred to me that children don't feel guilty for the choices they make. They don't feel guilty about going to school, participating in after school activities, going to a friends house, having a friend over, or going to a sleep over. We actually encourage them to do it. These are the things that help our children become well round people. This is all part of character development.

So why as mothers do we feel guilty about those same things, the things that bring joy to our lives and allow us to continue to cultivate our character development. Why do we feel that by leaving these things behind it somehow makes us better Mothers? Our interests are the things that make us interesting and unique. Isn't it important that we continue to grow as people too? If children learn by example then what are we exemplifying? Would you consciously teach your children how to feel guilty about doing things that bring them joy if it means being apart from the family?

I have decided I am not going to teach that. I am going to participate in the things beyond my family that give me joy and feed my soul. I feed my body when it is hungry because I know that if I don't I will be cranky, irritable and have low energy. After eating I'm not cranky, irritable and my energy level is high. So I am proposing that by doing the things that feed our soul we in- turn are bringing joy, patience, peace and a sense of fulfillment to our families. Don't you agree you and your family are worth it? What feeds your soul?